The ex-lover of Seven West Media’s boss was in contempt of court when she deliberately and repeatedly breached a gag order, says a NSW judge who has also expressed sympathy for her.
Seven sought the contempt declaration, but did not apply for an order that Amber Harrison be punished or pay its legal costs.
Harrison was at the centre of a long-running dispute with the media company after she revealed details of the affair with its boss, Tim Worner, and a subsequent settlement agreement.
In July 2017, the NSW Supreme Court made orders, including banning her from giving interviews or making statements about the relationship, the company and the settlement deed.
Justice Michael Pembroke on Wednesday found Harrison contravened the orders on multiple occasions by making statements on television and radio, in tweets, and in interviews given to the press.
“Lawyers like to call it ‘contumacious disobedience’ but it simply means that (her) conduct was wilful,” he said.
“She was angry, perhaps understandably so, and felt that the court system had let her down and that (Seven) had bullied her.
“What she did and why she did it are perspicuous. Unfortunately for her, I can sympathise but I cannot excuse.”
In her first interview, Harrison said, “with some justification”, that this dispute started as a ‘spat between two people’ but then turned into something different, the judge said.
“She said that Seven Network signed her into agreements then did none of them; that she didn’t get the money and the deal fell apart,” Justice Pembroke said.
She then added, in language with which many might be tempted to agree, that ‘My case is a lesson in how many ways you can screw a girl. The boys club has shown that they are still – for now – in control, but we can change that’.”
While no punishment or legal costs were sought by Seven, the judge said there was “utility” in making the declaration because it will uphold and reinforce the principle that orders of the court must be obeyed.
“The declaration will represent a formal disapprobation of (Harrison’s) conduct in flouting the orders of the court.”
If she committed future breaches, the declaration would be taken into account, he said.